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Local contractor keeping our area's cedar-hackers busy

By BILL WHITAKER

Jack Casey says there's always a harder way to do things.

For instance, the 42-year-old Abilene remodeling contractor remembers the time, not long ago, when a plywood base was about to be laid down for an oak wood floor as part of an ambitious home remodeling project. As is routine, thick, black, gooey tar was applied first.

Everyone in the household had been repeatedly warned to keep the big, fat, beloved family cat locked up till this phase of the project was complete - everyone, that is, but the maid.

So naturally she allowed the well-fed cat loose - and onto the fresh tar.

Result: the cat panicked after walking on the tar, panicked some more when laborers began yelling at it, then led workers on a madcap chase through other parts of the house, including across what had just been newly laid snow-white carpet.

"I just remember they couldn't catch it," Jack told me, shaking his head at the memory. "I got a call from the guy in charge of that part and, well, I thought he was Iranian or something, I couldn't understand him. Problem was, now he was in a panic."

MEAN STRIPPERS

Lately Jack's been doing things the hard way but for better results.

Although the longtime contractor is still undertaking remodeling projects with his two brothers, he's also branched out into the home-made furniture business.

Catch: He's building most of his tailor-made furniture of cedar posts, just like those that hold up many a fence throughout West Texas. He claims to have enough business that he's keeping cedar-hackers in the Possum Kingdom area busy furnishing more and more cedar.

I'm always happy to hear our area's cedar-hackers are being kept busy.

"Funny thing is, we treat the wood in such a way people don't know it's cedar," he said after I stopped to chat with him during the Bonanza Cutting Horse Classic at the Expo Center. "A lot of people think it's aspen, but it's the same wood their granddaddys used for fence posts."

After debarking the cedar posts, each is sanded, then dried in a wood kiln to get all the moisture out. The results do look like another sort of wood, but it's definitely cedar. Jack has been making rockers, tables, bed posts and easy chairs of this distinctively West Texan and wildly plentiful wood.

So far it's largely a family operation. Jack tells me two of his three kids - 15-year-old Todd and 12-year-old Peter - help actually strip bark from the wood. I asked why Jack's 15-year-old daughter, Melanie, wasn't part of the debarking operation. "The girl's not a stripper," Jack said straight-faced (and with a look of some disappointment). "I think you have to have some meanness to strip cedar, and she's just not mean enough."

FANNY KNOWS

I guess the surprising thing is so many of the western-oriented folks at this week's cutting event have been fooled into thinking Jack's furniture - on display at the Taylor County Expo Center through this weekend - is something other than cedar.

Whatever the case, that didn't keep many from sitting down and trying it out - and a fanny in the saddle all day can be mighty choosy.

Although Jack's at the Expo Center this week, he operates out of a place called The Homestead Collection, 363 ES 11th. The place has been opened up to other artisans, too, including an Albany woman who makes rope baskets from used rope.

And two local school teachers make silhouettes from the rusty iron discs off old field plows.

"If it's been used, all the better," Jack said of his fellow artisans. "It's just different and touches people more. It means more if people know the silhouettes made of those plow discs come from plows that actually turned the earth and helped cotton grow."

There's a poetry to Jack's words that makes me want to stop by the newly opened Homestead Collection, open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays except for this week.

I'll bet, too, I don't find any cats loose inside.

Bill Whitaker, who would never, ever purchase snow-white carpet, can be reached at 670-5293, ext. 325.

 

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Copyright ©1996 or 1997, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps. Publications

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